Story by 1st Lt. Jessica Donnelly
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. — Members of the South Carolina Army National Guard responded to a call for help to rescue an injured hiker from the Sumter National Forest along the Chattooga River near the South Carolina-Georgia border Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016.
When first responders realized they were not able to evacuate the patient due to the remote location, they called for support from the South Carolina National Guard, explained U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Hutto, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot. The Joint Operations Center then alerted the aviation unit of the mission and a crew responded to the request to provide medevac support.
Hutto explained, once the helicopter was on site, the rescue took less than 30 minutes. Once they were positioned, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Thibeau, Company F, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment flight paramedic, went to work administering care to the patient and helping getting him hoisted into the helicopter.
“I introduced myself to the patient and did an assessment of his condition and explained to him that we were about to hoist him up about 200 feet into the air,” said Thibeau. “I told him he needed to trust me. He had been out on the embankment for a long time, but his day was almost over. We were going to get him out of there.”
Once back in the helicopter, Thibeau administered an IV and continued to monitor the patient’s vital signs until they were able to deliver the hiker to a nearby civilian hospital.
To put into perspective the type of terrain the hiker was located in, Hutto explained, the Black Hawk’s hoist line is 244 feet long and 235 feet were used to reach the patient and that placed the bird only about 30 feet above the tree line. In addition to the terrain, the crew also had to monitor the weather as adverse conditions were developing and the mission was being conducted at night fall and night vision goggles were required to conduct the hoist extraction.
Even with these obstacles, the South Carolina Army National Guard crew completed the mission, and brought the patient to Oconee Medical Center. Another accomplishment from this mission is it was the first true medevac mission for the South Carolina Army National Guard since a UH-60 Black Hawk medevac unit was reintroduced to the SCNG force structure, added Hutto.